A rare winter storm dropped snow across much of the Middle East between December 10 and 13, 2013. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this image of the snow on December 15 after the clouds cleared. For the most part, the snow is confined to higher elevations in Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel and the West Bank, and Jordan. Some lower-elevation desert regions in Syria are also snowy.
Snow storms in the Middle East are not frequent but not uncommon either. However, this one was unusually early in the winter and more intense than normal. The storm paralyzed Jerusalem with 30 to 50 centimeters (12 to 20 inches) of snow, knocking out power for roughly 15,000 households. The snow closed mountain roads leading into the city, effectively cutting Jerusalem off. Amman, Jordan, received about 45 cm (18 inches) of snow, and Lebanon and Syria also were unusually cold and snowy.
Lower elevations near the coast received torrential rain during the storm, resulting in flooding. Some 40,000 people were forced to evacuate flooded areas in Gaza, according to the Associated Press. The floods are not visible at this scale, but tan and green plumes of sediment are visible along the Mediterranean Sea coast. Such plumes can be caused by floods and run off, though stormy, turbid waters may also bring sediment to the surface.
- Associated Press, via The Weather Channel (2013, December 14) Floods in Gaza force thousands to evacuate. Accessed December 16, 2013.
- Daily Mail (2013, December 16) Snowballs in Syria: How Middle Eastern snow can make life seem normal in war zone. Accessed December 16, 2013.
- Los Angeles Times (2013, December 13) Storm brings unusually heavy snow to parts of Middle East. Accessed December 16, 2013.
- UNHCR (2013, December 12) UNHCR and partners step up measures to help Syrian refugees amid massive winter storm. Accessed December 16, 2013.
- The Wall Street Journal (2013, December 15) Snow blankets Middle East. Accessed December 16, 2013.
- Weather Underground (2013, December 13) Topsy-turvey weather in Europe, Middle East. Accessed December 16, 2013.